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3o8 - THE GAY GENIUS
A year later her husband died, and their coffins were transported
south to their home in the neighbourhood of Chinkiang.
Shortly after his arrival at Huichow, Su Tungpo received a piece of,
news which rather worried him. In all the forty-two years' time since!
his elder sister died and his father denounced his brother-in-law'sl
family, he and his brother had neither spoken nor written to theis/
brother-in-law Cheng Chihtsai, although they had kept up correspond-
ence with the other sons of the Cheng family. Learning of this family
feud, Chang Chun sent Cheng down south as an inspector of justice
to handle outstanding lawsuits and cases of higher appeal. Cheng
arrived in Canton in January 1095, only three or four months after
Su's arrival. Su could not tell whether Cheng was in a mood to forget
the past or what was awaiting him. Through a friend he sent him a
letter in the most formal and respectful tone, and learned that Cheng;
was coming to Huichow in March. To be sure that he was doing the
right thing, he sent Kuo to meet him upon his arrival with a letter of
welcome, stating that he "had shut himself up to repent of the past".
Cheng was an old man by this time, around sixty. It turned out that
Cheng himself was most desirous of patching up the quarrel and win-
ning the friendship of his distinguished relative. One of the favours
that Cheng asked of him was to write a brief biographical sketch of his
ancestor, who was Su Tungpo's great-grandfather on his mother's side.
Perhaps blood was thicker than water; perhaps the whole town of
Meishan was proud of its great poet, and Cheng shared that sentiment.
Thereafter their relationship became really cordial, as evidenced by the
many exchanges of letters and poems, and by Su's requests of his
brother-in-law. After spending ten days at Huichow, Cheng left on his
tour of inspection, but remained mostly around Canton for that year.
Cheng's presence and friendship now turned out to be the means by
which Su Tungpo did quite a number of things for the people in this
district. Although he was deprived of all rights to attach his name to
official communications, he made full use of his influence over Cheng.
He had said good-bye to high politics, but the welfare of his neighbours
and of the common people of the town was still his business. If there
was something wrong and he had some influence to correct it, Su
Tungpo could not stand by and do nothing.
A great fire on New Year's Day in 1096 at Poklo greatly excited him.
The whole town was burned down. There were relief to be given to the
homeless, temporary shelters to be built, looting to be prevented. The
government offices were entirely destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Su
Tungpo feared the usual would happen. He was afraid that when the
government tried to rebuild the city, there would be a chance to exploit
the people, and that the local government would levy material and